User-centred design – a better option to sanitation facility sustainability

Organisation: Deutsche Welthungerhilfe

Partners: Snook

Location: Uganda: Bidibidi and Imvepi refugee settlements in Yumbe and Arua districts

Type of grant: WASH

Status: Ongoing

  • Community engagement meeting demonstrating the difficulties in using the current latrine design. Credit: Omara William.

  • 76 Year old Lorna Kiden stands infront of her completed latrine in Imvepi Refugee settlement. Photo by Eluk Kevin / Welthungerhilfe - Uganda

Welthungerhilfe is piloting a user-centred sanitation design that involves identifying user needs and problems with current facilities, selecting options for improvement, and the involvement of users in the design and monitoring of the sanitation facility for sustainable functionality.


As South Sudan refugees arrive and settle in Uganda, lifesaving services such as the provision of safe water, sanitation, shelter and food are urgent and offered. In the sanitation and hygiene sector, pit latrines are sunk and super structures built over the pits. However, these super structures do not consider the various users and vulnerabilities of users such as women, the elderly, pregnant mothers, disabled people, children etc. Through this innovation therefore, the humanitarian need for safe, appropriate and user-friendly sanitation facilities (pit latrines) is being addressed. More focus will be put on the super structure built over the pit.


The approach to combine Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) with user-centred design is an innovation. Integrating participatory approaches to a user-centred design approach is a major step in improving the acceptance and usability of sanitation facilities. Putting the user in the centre of an approach is a major change in the mindset of many aid agencies’ staff.

The approach is very flexible and can be used in situations without any sanitation facilities available, but because of its phased nature, it can also be used to improve and retrofit existing facilities. The user-centred designing is applicable in any physical and cultural setting, including urban, camp, mixed refugee and host communities. The flexibility of the approach itself is an innovation.

The approach is scalable due to its iterative methodology and useful as a starting point for deeper community engagement.


  1. Community members feel more comfortable using maintained latrines. For example, a percentage of community members report always using the latrines; observing the number of latrine stalls constructed or altered in a way that actively responds to identified priority feedback of the community.
  2. Community members are satisfied with latrines. For example, a percentage of community members report satisfaction with the ongoing cleaning/maintenance of the latrines.
  3. Evidence of the value of community engagement in sanitation during emergencies is generated. For example, at least one community structure identified, engaged, supported and functional regarding sanitation Operations and Maintenance (O&M); Community O&M structure have created and are implementing an Action plan for operation and maintenance of latrines.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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